Gangs and Intellectual Property Crimes

Gangs & Intellectual Property Crimes

By Kris Buckner, Investigative Consultants

Trademark Counterfeiting, Piracy, and other Intellectual Property Crimes are the perfect types of crimes for gang members and organized crime groups to be involved in.

The answer why is very simple. These criminals face very low risk, however the rewards are extremely great. These crimes are all about the money. Most people do not realize the money that can be made by engaging in the theft of someone’s intellectual property. Intellectual property theft is estimated to be a 500 billion dollar a year problem.

Gang members and other criminals can make more money selling counterfeit goods than by committing robberies, selling dope, or carrying out their other normal street hustling crimes. Counterfeiters can make tens of thousands of dollars a month hawking their counterfeit shoes, handbags, or other assorted products.

It is amazing how much demand exists for counterfeit goods, so this creates the “Perfect Storm” for the gangsters to make big money. If the demand is there, someone will supply what the consumer wants. Whether it is drugs, counterfeit goods, or whatever else.

The gangsters face little risk of going to prison for trademark counterfeiting or piracy; however they are making money hand over fist selling counterfeit goods. They are making the same amount of money as if they were selling kilos of Cocaine.

Remember, if you get caught selling kilos of Cocaine, you are going to prison for years. So why sell kilos of Cocaine, when you can sell counterfeit goods and make just as much money and not risk going to prison for years?

Gang members take advantage of every aspect of Intellectual Property Crimes. In areas that have high concentrations of stores and street vendors, gang members have been known to “tax” the local vendors to allow them to sell their counterfeit goods. In one case in Los Angeles, two 18th Street Gang Members were arrested after shooting and killing a three week old child.

It was reported that the 18th Street gang members approached a vendor that was selling pirated DVD movies on the street. The vendor had his new born son with him. The gang members demanded that he pay them “tax” for selling the DVDs in their area. When the vendor refused, they shot at him. The bullet that was fired struck and killed his young son.

In another case, gang members suspected that a “fellow” seller of counterfeit items had “ratted” them out to law enforcement and reveled where they were getting their counterfeit merchandise. The gangsters chased the subject down and stabbed him multiple times, then they set him on fire and left him in the street to die.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigated a trademark counterfeiting case involving sunglasses, perfumes, and shoes. One of the subjects arrested turned out to be a previously deported El Monte Flores Gang member with a history of violence towards law enforcement. The subject’s father turned out to be a high ranking member of Le Eme, The Mexican Mafia. During the investigation, law enforcement seized over 2 million dollars worth of counterfeit goods.

There are many stories of hard core gang members and their associates becoming involved in trademark counterfeiting and piracy. There are documented cases involving the following gangs:

• MS-13
• 18TH Street
• East Coast Crips
• Grape Street Crips
• El Monte Flores
• 36th Street Gang
• Rough Riders
• 4 Trey Crips
• 42nd Street Little Gangsters
• Slauson Boys
• Compton Crips
• Raymond Street Crips
• Southside Montebello
• 190 East Coast Crips
• Los Carnales
• Compton Varrio 155
• Rolling 60’s
• Watergate Crips
• Skyline Pirus
• Hells Angels

The trademark counterfeiting and piracy laws are in place, however it is not often when counterfeiters are ever sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Until these gang members feel that counterfeiting is no longer worth the risk, they will continue to become deeply involved in trademark counterfeiting and piracy and reap large financial benefits.

Gang members are not stupid people, in fact they are very resourceful and creative. They are clearly learning that engaging in intellectual property theft can be very lucrative. In the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in gang related trademark counterfeiting cases.

It is important to realize that Intellectual Property Crimes create a huge opportunity for the gangsters to make money to fund their other criminal activities, such as drug trafficking, extortion, identity theft, murders, human trafficking, and other serious and violent crimes.

The easy opportunity that these crimes create must be taken away from these serious criminals. The gangsters must not be allowed to engage in Intellectual Property Theft to benefit their violent criminal organizations.

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